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City to consider another affordable housing bond

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As the cost of living in Austin continues to climb, city leaders are considering going back to voters to ask for an affordable housing bond, after voters turned down one in November 2012.

Affordable housing advocates say the need for more low-rent housing in Austin can't be ignored.

"It's become increasingly difficult to afford to live in Austin, but to have a progressive city we need to have that," City of Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said.

Salvation Army store manager Dalton Duffie lives in an affordable housing complex on Ben White. He says without it, he doesn't know where he would live.

"I wouldn't have a place to be, I wouldn't have a place to call home, I wouldn't have this," Duffie said.

Many Austinities are in his position. According to City of Austin demographers, the average rent in Austin is more than $900 a month, forcing many people who work in the city to live outside of it. Foundation Communities, a non-profit that provides affordable housing and support services for low-income residents, has a six month waitlist for some of their properties.

The $55 million from the last affordable housing bond passed in 2006 is just about gone. Part of it will be used to build Capital Studios, 135 apartments with rents ranging from $400-650 a month, near 11th and Trinity. The groundbreaking is expected for this April and it should be completed by mid-2014. It will be the first affordable housing complex built in the downtown area in more than 40 years. The idea is to provide some housing for those who work downtown and make less than $27,000 a year.

"A lot of folks fit that category that work at restaurants and hotels and then we'll also set aside some apartments for folks that have been homeless, to help them get back on their feet," said Walter Moreau with Foundation Communities.

He adds that 10 units will be reserved for working musicians and artists.

On South Lamar, where at least half a dozen high end housing developments are being built, Foundation Communities hopes to put its next affordable housing complex. They've partnered with Goodwill Industries to build Skyview Studios, 109 efficient apartments with a new Goodwill Store on the bottom floor. All of that is contingent on receiving $10 million in federal tax credits since the money from the city's affordable housing fund has run out.

Moreau tells FOX 7, "The voters may have not approved the housing bond, but that doesn't mean cancel all housing programs and we need to fund those that are most essential."

So that low-income residents in Austin, struggling to pay the rising rent, have somewhere to live.

"I don't think just because you don't make a certain amount of money you should not have a place to live, a place to call home," said Duffie.

City Council members are just starting to discuss another affordable housing bond that could be on the ballot this coming November, or May or November of 2014. Council members say if they do decide to put a bond on the ballot, they need to do a better job campaigning and educating the community on exactly where that money will go.

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